Making the Rounds with Oscar

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am

Making the Rounds with Oscar
by David Dosa
Headline, HK$164

A black-and-white tabby, Oscar is famous because of an uncanny ability to know when someone is at death's door. According to the author of Making the Rounds with Oscar, physician David Dosa, who first wrote about the cat for the New England Journal of Medicine, the animal turned up at the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in 2005 and stayed. Soon after, staff started noticing Oscar's unusual behaviour, which was akin to doing the rounds every day to check on patients, many of whom were in the last stages of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Then they noticed that the patients on whose beds the cat slept usually died within hours. Baffled but convinced of its ability to detect impending death, they would use him as an alert signalling when it was time to tell patients' family and friends to prepare for the worst. Dosa's book offers few explanations for Oscar's 'sixth sense', although he writes it may be possible the cat is simply reacting to the smell of chemicals produced as cells die. Although interesting, the book feels like a magazine feature that should have been cut in half.